In court on Wednesday, I saw that the judge had a notice outside his court describing new procedures for trials. He complained that half of his trials are canceled at the last minute, aggravating his backlog. Half of those cancellations are caused by settlements, and the other half by "stipulated continuances". He find the latter particularly annoying, so now requires pre-trial confirmation conferences in order to try to reduce them.
It is indeed a bad sign when there are a lot of stipulated continuances. It is extremely rare for both parties in a trial to really want a delay. These delays are really for the convenience of the lawyers, not the parties. I would bet that 9 times out of 10, a stipulated continuance is a sign that the lawyer is acting contrary to his client's interests.
Most of the family lawyers in town are scared of trials. They will happily burn 1000s of dollars on trial preparation, but when it comes time to actually have a trial, they run like frightened puppies. People often assume that lawyer are comfortable going to trial, but it is often false.
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